'Ocean on fire': Mexico gas pipeline explosion creates surreal imagery

State-owned oil company Pemex said the blaze was brought under control within five hours

An underwater inferno caused by blazing gas from a burst pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico has created stunning images of what appears to be a fire in the ocean.

State-owned oil company Pemex added to confusion surrounding the video, which was filmed 150 metres from an oil drilling platform, by sending firefighting tugs that appeared to spray water on to the flames.

The company later clarified that nitrogen was being used to control the fire at its source.

Pemex said the fire was brought under control within five hours, at the Ku-Maloob-Zaap offshore oilfield. Pemex said no injuries were reported and added it would investigate the cause of the fire.

The gas pipeline was connected to an oil rig producing 726,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent.

Angel Carrizales, head of Mexico's oil safety regulator ASEA, wrote on Twitter that the incident "did not generate any spill." He did not explain what was burning on the water's surface.

Ku Maloob Zaap is Pemex's biggest crude oil producer, accounting for more than 40 per cent of its nearly 1.7 million barrels of daily output.

"The turbomachinery of Ku Maloob-Zaap's active production facilities were affected by an electrical storm and heavy rains," according to a Pemex incident report shared by one of Reuters' sources.

The oilfield's operations have been affected in recent years by lack of funding, amid a sharp decline in global oil prices. It is unclear whether the pipeline blaze was linked to inadequate maintenance.

But the video quickly went viral, galvanising proponents of tougher global action to save the environment.

“Shout out to all the legislators going out on dinner dates with Exxon lobbyists so they can say a Green New Deal is too expensive,” said US Democrat congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, referring to a multi-trillion dollar green energy deal which she backed in 2019.

Updated: July 4th 2021, 5:10 AM
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